On The Hill

February 11, 2015

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Some of the folks from Mississippi Association of Cooperatives swapping seeds from up north.

Betsy Garrold, President of the Board, is still in Washington DC after three days of very successful meeting, sharing, goal setting and action planning at the National Family Farm Coalition meeting. Today they storm the hill.

Maggie and Dena from Northern Plains Resource Council will be meeting with folks from the USDA and Congress-people from Montana.

Jim from Family Farm Defenders and Betsy from our own FMF will be meeting with staff from Susan Collins’ office, staff from Tammy Baldwin’s office (Jim is from Wisconsin) and, later in the afternoon, Chellie Pingree. The focus of these meetings will be educating these folks about the impact the TPP and the Trans-Atlantic Trade deal will have on small farms in this country. All of this in a effort to get them to vote against Fast Track.

Other Coalition members will be meeting with their respective Congress-persons.

One of the speakers we heard, over our three days of meetings, was Mike Dolan from the Teamsters. A dynamic speaker, Mike lead us through strategies that could work to stop this latest egregious trade deal. Monkey-wrenching (or as his European colleagues mis-heard it monkey ranching) is his favorite tactic. Once again seeing the sausage made is not always pretty but if it gets the job done than it’s all good. For more information on strategy email FMF at hgarrold@yahoo.com.

Fast Track authority is probably going to be voted on within the month. Congress is hot to get this done before the 2016 presidential sweepstakes begin, so watch for action alerts from your favorite progressive organizations and please sign on. Remember that next week all of Congress is going to be back home in their districts for President’s Day recess so if there are town-hall meetings planned please attend them and speak up against the selling, yet again, of the small farmers and other workers down the proverbial river that this bad, bad trade deal embodies.

And chin up spring is coming, as we proved at the NFFC meeting by swapping seeds. Dan and Charles from Mississippi told me they are going home to plant the bean seeds they took this very week. So it is warm somewhere and soon will be again in Maine.


Upcoming Events

February 5, 2015

On Sunday February 8th, 2015 Betsy Garrold (board President) will travel to Washington DC to attend the annual meeting of the National Family Farm Coalition of which Food for Maine’s Future is a member. Here is a snapshot about the organization from their website:

“We stand for a FAMILY FARMER POLICY AGENDA.

U.S. farm and food policy must change in order to reverse the economic devastation currently faced by our nation’s family farmers and rural communities. In addition, our international trade policy must recognize each nation’s right and responsibility to make their own decisions about how to develop and protect the capacity to grow food, sustain the livelihood of food producers, and feed the people in its own borders.

We envision empowered communities everywhere working together democratically to advance a food and agriculture system that ensures health, justice, and dignity for all. Future generations will thrive when the family farm is an economically viable livelihood supported by environmentally sustainable and socially diverse vibrant rural communities.”

This meeting is a chance for FMF to be present on the national stage in solidarity with many great grassroots organizations across the country. Standing shoulder to shoulder to protect the small farmers and their workers against the total take over of our food system by the oligarchs.

The other great news this month is that the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund will be funding a part-time paid lobbyist in Augusta this session. This will help immensely with the ongoing work of getting the law to follow the practice when it comes to face to face food sales in the state.

So next week in Augusta this is want the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) will be holding public hears about:

February 10th at 1:00 pm in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building in Augusta:
LD 4 and LD 119 both bills dealing with the growing of industrial hemp here in Maine.

February 12th (same time same place) they will be hearing testimony regarding a resolution to review the merger that created the DACF.

Anyone interested in attending these hearings and wanting more information can contact Betsy at hgarrold@yahoo.com or leave a message on our Facebook page.

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In Defense of Small Dairies (and other small farms)

January 24, 2015

Here is a review of Bruce Scholten’s new book – U.S Organic Dairy Politics: Animals, Pasture, People and Agribusiness.
January 13th, 2015

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan – a division of St. Martin’s Press (in the US)

A review by Jim Goodman

Bruce Scholten’s in-depth and thoughtful analysis of U.S. organic dairy politics begins with his own memories of growing up on a Washington State dairy farm. From what was common in his childhood, small dairy farms operated by multi-generational family labor, pasturing their cattle, building the soil and supporting local communities, Scholten shows the reader how things have changed over the past five decades.

Scholten exposes the system that has come to control and victimize the farmer (both conventional and organic), the animals, the environment and the consumer. Noting that “Get big or get out” — the exhortation of Earl Butz — set the stage for the shift of agriculture from small family dairy farms to “mega-dairies,” Scholten clearly explains how this shift was made using government policy, driven by corporations that have taken control of markets, of seeds and even of the simple ethical principles that had been a safeguard for the environment and the animals with whom we are so interdependent.

While many farmers saw organic farming as a way to get out of the increasingly industrialized and globalized food system, Scholten shows how current policy in Washington is allowing, if not encouraging, the “industrialization” of organic agriculture. A parallel system to conventional agriculture, with intentionally weak organic standards and lax government regulation, is the situation we as organic farmers and consumers face. But there is resistance and hope, as Scholten notes; there are individuals and populist advocacy groups fighting to maintain the integrity of organic while ensuring farmers a fair price and consumers an honest product. Perhaps most of all, there are still farm families who “call their animals by name and manage their farms like living organisms in rural communities.”

You may link to the blog here: http://nffc.net/index.php/u-s-organic-dairy-politics-by-bruce-scholten/.

Thanks, Jim!


Check Out This New Documentary!

January 11, 2015

This trailer for a new documentary about young people becoming farmers features several Maine locations: Vinland Restaurant in Portland, Frinkelpod Farm in Arundel (a new one for us) and The Sheepscot General Store in Whitefield (one of our favorites for their unique take on the whole “value added” thing.) Hurrah for Maine! We have the fasting growing farming population and we are the only state in the nation in which the average of farmers is falling.


Giving Tuesday

December 2, 2014

We are currently working hard on what we want to see come out of the upcoming Legislative session.   There is another edition of Saving Seeds in the works.   And this fall we got together with our friends at the Coaliton of Immokalee Workers to make blueberry jam as the first itteration of the Blueberry Jam Cooperative.   All of this can only happen if we have the financial wherewithal to do this work.   Hope you can add us to your end of the year giving.   And thanks for all the ongoing support.

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Remarks on Food Sovereignty and GMOs

June 1, 2014

Last Saturday Betsy was in Monument Square in Portland  at the March Against Monsanto.   The week before that Heather was on the steps of the Maine Supreme Court at the press conference just before Dan Brown’s case was heard.   In between those two events two counties in Oregon passed bans on planting GMO crops.

Here is all those events:

March Against Monsanto

I have come here today to speak about the food sovereignty movement.   And I will do that in a moment but first I want to tell you a story and toward the end I’ll offer you a solution to the food situation in which we find ourselves.

Back in 2006 I was standing around with some friends at one of our Mud Season Dinners.   These are events meant to demonstrate that even in the dark days of February or March there is still enough, entirely local, food to feed a crowd. At that moment we were at the height of our resistance against the animal ID law.  This is the USDA regulations that say all farmers who have livestock have to register and tattoo or tag all of their animals with a number and then do all the paperwork that entails.   So if anyone gets sick from eating meat, when that animal goes into the churning cauldron that is our current food system, the Feds can trace that animal’s life and provenance from birth to slaughter.   Naturally the anarchists, non-anarchist, libertarians and plain old left wing activists, I was chatting with were none too pleased with this development.  One of them asked plaintively “What are we going to do?”   A good friend of mine, a farmer who feeds thousands of people every year, happened to be standing in the group.  He looked at her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we are doing…it’s just going to be illegal.”

And that is the essence of this movement.   It is; in the tradition of Suffrage, Civil Rights and Marriage Equality; essentially a human rights movement.    We got them out of our voting booths and bedrooms now let’s get them out of our kitchens.  We are; by eating fresh local food, sourced from farmers that we know; committing an act of civil disobedience. Like the Palestinians on the West Bank standing in front of their olive trees,  we are standing in front of our apple trees, protecting them from the encroachment of a hostile government.    They, the government bureaucrats, say they are protecting us from ourselves.   They say that we don’t know enough not to eat bad food.  They say that a farmer would sell tainted milk or meat or eggs or vegetables to his neighbors and friends.   They say that we would feed bad food to our own family and loved ones.    Well, let me tell you, the only bad food we are feeding anyone is the over-processed, GMO-ladden, vacant-of-nutrient foods that the big manufacturers shovel our way every day in the chain supermarkets.  If you are eating fresh nutrient-dense foods you are going to eat less, because your body is going to crave less.   And you are going to be healthier over all.  Twinkies just can’t do that.

This is what I call a “just walk away” moment.   My favorite kind of civil disobedience.   Just as Gandhi lead the salt march  to prove to the people of India, and to the British Empire, that they could make their own salt and did not need to remain enslaved to the English salt monopoly, so too we can grow our own food.   As Ron Finley of the South Central Garden in LA said so eloquently:  “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.  Plus you get strawberries.”  and my favorite quote from him: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

So we in the food sovereignty movement offer you the opportunity to take back control of what you eat three times a day.   Let the big guys know that they cannot intimidate us into eating rubbish that nourishes neither our bodies nor our souls.   Anyone interested in getting a food sovereignty ordinance passed in your own town can speak to me and we’ll get you started.

We need to protect our small farms and farmers.   They are the people that feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people that brought us the populist movement which lead to so much government reform in the late 1800’s.   And currently the farmers in Nebraska are one of the major reasons we are winning the fight against the XL pipeline.   Farmers are independent, hard working, tough minded folk who see the truth more clearly than most and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe.

So stand with small farmers and farmworkers everywhere and take back your power.   Stand up in front of your apples trees or tomato plants or by the side of your local farmer and just say NO.   No to GMOs, no to heavy-handed government oversight, no to caving into the intimidation bought and paid for by the folks that make the most money selling us crap to eat.   Join the next great civil rights movement.   The right to know what is in our food and  to eat whatever we damn well please.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  Wendell Berry

GMO Bans In Oregon


Mainers Feeding Mainers

June 1, 2014

Our own Heather Retberg (and good friend the Honorable Craig Hickman) was at Husson University this past Thursday on a panel about food security.   The BDN had an article about the panel.  Here is the opening paragraph and a link:

BANGOR, Maine — Food, what is grown in Maine and how to get it into the mouths of hungry people, was the topic of the day at a Thursday morning panel discussion convened by Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague. The answer — support Maine’s farmers.”

And part of the article was a nice little video from Good Shepard Foodbank.  Watch it!


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